Posted by Tana L. Pedersen on March 2, 2009 in Family Tree Maker

What family historian doesn’t want to brag a little about their latest find or show off their tree? And one of the easiest ways to showcase your family is with charts. Family Tree Maker lets you easily create a variety of standard ancestor and descendant charts, but with a little effort (and practice) you can make charts that add some color and personality to your history. You can change colors and box styles by gender, generations, ancestral lines, and more. 

1.  Access the chart you want to format (on the Detail tab of the Publish workspace). In this example I’ll be working with the 180 Fan Chart.

2.  Before you change the formatting, you need to select a group of individuals to work with. Right-click an individual’s name in the chart. A drop-down list lets you choose whom to include (e.g., ancestors, descendants, individuals of the same generation).

Because I want my grandfather’s family to be the same color, I’ll click his name and choose “Select Person and All Ancestors.” The individuals who are selected currently are highlighted in blue. 

Note: You can also select individuals by pressing the CTRL key and clicking on each person you want to include in the group. For me, this is an efficient way to create a group, and I always know exactly who is being excluded and included. 

3.  After you’ve selected all the individuals you want for a group, right-click again and choose Mark Selected>Marking 1. This indicates to Family Tree Maker that this group will use a specific formatting. You can now change the borders, colors, and lines for this group of individuals.

4.  In the chart editing toolbar, click the Box and line styles button.

5.  In Boxes, choose “Marked Boxes 1” from the drop-down list. Now, make any changes you’d like to the box and border styles and click OK.

Using these basic steps, you can create multiple groups and change the formatting for each of them. If you create additional groups, make sure you designate the second group as “Marking 2” and the third group as “Marking 3.” If you choose “Marking 1” for each group, they will all have the same formatting. 

Because each Family Tree Maker chart is a little different and you can use a wide variety of formatting options, I recommend spending some time playing around with the software using the basic guidelines I’ve explained here. It may take a little practice before you get the results you expect. 

Here’s an example of my 180 Fan chart, which uses a different color for each family line.

180 Fan Chart


  1. Gillian

    This is excellent. I have always wondered how to do this. I assume it will work on any chart. Thanks.

  2. That is interesting. I’ve been doing my paper files that way for years with 3 out of 4 of the same colors.

    It is the only way I can keep my piles and files straight.

    Hmmh, now I can have a DVD that way, when I get done with this everlasting project! Needlesss to say my Irish are all green!

  3. Lynn

    Tana, thank you for providing this information.

    One of my wish list items (a future release) would be an option to highlight the boxes of individuals who have source citations that have a source rating of “four stars”. This would enhance the value of the related FTM functionality as well as visually differentiate family members that were added to the tree based upon family knowledge and facts versus those that were have added based upon research. Maybe even a color coding based on the highest rating the individual received. For example, personally I rate facts based upon Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills – placing added weight on family documentation and obviously less weight on OneWorld user-submitted trees where I have not seen the actual documentation – but I have individuals in my tree that pull from these varying sources – so a “colorful chart” that represents these differences would be extremely valuable. Given my tree has over 3,500 individuals automatic coloration would be extremely helpful – versus individually coloring each “box”.

    Thank you for continuing to add further value and functionality into FTM!

  4. Carol Dunn

    When i right clicked on the tree, I could not choose the descendants, only the ancestors. I tried different people. What did I do wrong?

  5. Maxine Elder

    Am having difficulty getting beyond step 2. I can get a drop down that allows me to choose Mark Selected, but not Mark Selected>Marking 1. Thus I can’t distinguish between groups of marked boxes. What am I not doing/doing incorrectly?

  6. Lynn

    Carol and Maxine, To validate Tana’s instructions — I can easily make “colorful” charts and have not experienced the issues you reported above. I am using the upgraded version of 2009 on XP (i.e., your version of FTM and/or your operating system may make the difference).

    Tana, I can see myself utilizing this feature in the future, but it appears that many of the charts in the upgraded version of FTM 2009 no longer allow us to “exclude empty branches” of the tree — this is the case for 180 fan (one of my favorites) and many others charts (i.e., causing many of my charts to become unnecessarily large and unfriendly to read) — please request that a patch is created to fix this issue/bring back this functionality.

  7. Tana L. Pedersen

    Gillian, this does work on most charts; two exceptions are the pedigree chart and relationship chart.

    Lynn, this is an interesting idea. I too rate my sources and would like a visual way to easily identify them.

    #5 and #7
    Carol and Maxine, as Lynn said, I think we may be working on different versions of the software. These steps work for Family Tree Maker 2009 with the latest software update that was released a few weeks ago.

    Lynn, I too noticed that the option to exclude branches didn’t seem to be available on certain charts. I use this option on most charts and am missing the functionality already. I will try to find out what happened to that option.

  8. Kevin Holmes

    In the previous versions of FTM you could chooses the location of a photograph in a tree. (ie above or below name as well as to the side) The latter appears to be the only option available now.

  9. Ann Jarrett

    I would be excited about these improved charts if I hadn’t just lost Seven Generations of ancestors including photos, merges, pages of notes and robust facts on everyone one of them ie. years of work.

    All I did was a deletion from a pedigree tree in FTM 16. I Thought I was just deleting from the Tree and could then add back some fraternal ancestors.

    Turns out I was deleting all of them from my Database not just the report.

    Somehow being able to pick pretty colors, overlays and borders doesn’t make up for software that would Allow such a wholesale delete to happen at all. And with no temp. file to hold the data for a possible reversal.

    Lots of flash and bling for my now empty tree.

  10. Ann Victoria Paras

    I am having difficulty printing out the Calendar. I have about 200 names which I selected, but when I click to Generate Report, nothing happens. Please help me. Thank you.

  11. Herb Carter

    Can’t seem to get the chart poster option working. I have lots of computer memory and have cleaned my machine up. but still get the message not enough memory, or a pdf poster comes up with a big red X in it. Hopefully this has been reported and is being worked on for the next update?

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